County Installs Life-Size Images of Women Breastfeeding, Defends the Right to Nurse.

Health & Wellness on 07.05.12
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Photo: Marianne Oosterom-Ostendorf/Creative Commons

The controversy over a photo of a breastfeeding three-year-old may finally be dying down, but there is no doubt that nursing in public can still cause quite a stir in some quarters. (A NASCAR-driver's profanicty-laden rant about public breastfeeding may be an extreme example.)

Now the Mail Tribune is reporting that the Oregon department of labour is stepping up its defense of nursing mothers, mandating that employers provide facilities for mothers to pump, and advising public venues of their responsibilities in permitting public nursing. As part of the campaign, lifesize cut-outs of women breasfeeding will be placed around Jackson County in an attempt to "normalize" the activity and demonstrate just what a non-issue this is, or should be. 

Perhaps the most notable place where the advice is most needed is in public pools, where pool users regularly complain at the sight of nursing mothers:

Geter has been training lifeguards and staff members at four Jackson County swimming pools. The questions ran the gamut from simple queries about whether a woman must cover her breast when feeding to health concerns about risks to the public if a woman breast-fed in a pool. In answer to the latter, Geter said, the national environmental health organizations have determined there is no risk. As for hiding under blankets or wraps, that's not required, she said.  "If she's got her whole breast exposed, she can do that," Geter said. "If someone has a problem, they can simply look away."

Given our culture's complicated, confused and often downright hypocritical attitide to breastfeeding breasts in general, it's unsurprising that some will be offended. But it's good to see at least one community stepping up and drawing a line in the sand - breasts are for feeding babies. Babies should be allowed to feed from them without shame. 

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